Hitting Catches Up to Pitching In Big Week

Looks like Cruz and the Rangers have found their stroke. Photo Courtesy: Darryl Briggs
Looks like Cruz and the Rangers have found their stroke. Photo Courtesy: Darryl Briggs

By Mark Miller

Until this past weekend, pitching and defense allowed the Texas Rangers to succeed early in the 2013 season so it was refreshing when the offense did its part.

Thanks to scoring seven, five and 11 runs while yielding only three with two shutouts, the Rangers earned their first sweep of the year against the Seattle Mariners. It was the team’s first sweep since last June and moved it atop the American League West Division, tied with the Boston Red Sox for the league’s best record.

It also gave their fans a look at their capabilities after four home runs in Sunday’s 11-3 win. Among them were a grand slam by Nelson Cruz and the first major league blast by Leonys Martin.

“That’s the way we see ourselves as a lineup,” Cruz told mlb.com Sunday. “We can do damage one through nine and I was glad to see the whole team doing damage. It was a good series for us. The pitching was amazing and when the offense needed a clutch hit, we got it done.”

The Rangers yielded just three runs against Seattle and 11 for the week. Among the pitching stars was long reliever Derek Lowe.

The 39-year-old right-hander saw his first action in more than two weeks in Thursday’s 6-2 loss at the Chicago Cubs, then threw four scoreless innings and picked up the win Saturday after rookie starter Nick Tepesch suffered a wrist contusion trying to stop a rocket off the bat of Seattle’s Jesus Montero.

“Lowe was outstanding and we certainly needed it,” said Texas manager Ron Washington on Saturday. “He moved it up and down and kept us in the game.”

The defense continued to be strong with just two errors last week. With an offense that produced 10 home runs and 29 runs, three hitters over .400 for the week (Jeff Baker .444, Craig Gentry .429 and Martin .400) and two at .333 (Lance Berkman and Ian Kinsler), the Rangers have put themselves in a good position for now.

It’s on the Road Again
After the short home-stand against Seattle, the Rangers are back on the road this week. They start with three games against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim followed by the only trip to Minnesota in 2013.

The Angels had to win both Saturday and Sunday against the Detroit Tigers to improve to a 7-10 record, three games behind the Rangers. Mark Trumbo was a big reason with a grand slam Saturday and walk-off blast in the 13th inning Sunday. He batted in nine runs for the week.

Former Ranger Josh Hamilton continued to struggle with just one hit in 21 at-bats last week. He has only 12 hits in 68 at-bats (.176 average) overall.

The White Sox lost their final three games last week to stand at 7-11. Pitching has not been the reason as Chicago ranks fourth in the American League with a 3.41 earned run average. The problem has been lack of offense with just 61 runs (3.3 per game) and a .232 average.

One reason for the lack of production has been the absence since April 10 of second baseman Gordon Beckham to a fractured wrist bone. He was hitting .316. Only three others – outfielder Alex Rios (.313), shortstop Alexei Ramirez (.306) and third baseman Conor Gillespie (.300) are at or above .300.

Jose Quintana (1-0, 2.55 earned run average) and Jake Peavy (2-1, 3.20) have been Chicago’s best starters. Before Sunday, the bullpen had a 1.63 ERA and opponents batted .177.

Upcoming Schedule
4/22     @Angels         9:05 p.m.
4/23     @Angels         9:05 p.m.
4/24     @Angels         9:05 p.m.
4/25     @Twins           7:10 p.m.
4/26     @Twins           7:10 p.m.
4/27     @Twins           3:10 p.m.
4/28     @Twins           1:10 p.m.